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Ballyministragh, County Down


Ir. Baile Mainistreach ‘townland of the monastery’


At the south-eastern end of Kilmood next to Killinchy (Balloo), Reeves noted an ecclesiastical ruin in the townland of Ballyminstra, which he explained as meaning ‘townland of the monastery’. Local people called the ruin Jerusalem, and believed that no tithe was payable for the townland because ‘John of Jerusalem’ had gone on one of the crusades and never returned to claim it.  In the early 17th-century Terrier and Ulster Visitation (1615, 1622) the church called Capella de Ballymonasteragh was listed as belonging to Grey Abbey (EA 198-9). 

By O’Laverty’s time, there was a quarry on the site and the ruined building had disappeared.  He found that an Inquisition of 1636 had recorded the granting of the rectory of Ballymonestragh and the tithes of the townlands of Ballymonestragh and Ballyobunden (Ballybunden) to Sir Hugh Montgomery as part of the possessions of Grey Abbey, but an earlier inquisition in 1605 recorded that Sir John Rawson had held the rectory of Ballymonestragh as Prior of St John of Jerusalem in the Little Ards.  As O’Laverty said, this Sir John c.1600 was ‘probably the person whose memory is preserved in the local tradition’ as still held in the 19th century (O’Laverty I, 369). 

The Irish ‘Grand Priories’ of the crusading Knights of St John of Jerusalem (now the Knights of Malta) had been Kilmainham and Wexford, but there had been a preceptory of the Order in the Ards, founded by Hugh de Lacy, with extensive lands, in the townland (and parish) of Castleboy. A patent roll of c.1200 referred to Hugo de Lascy, Comes Ultoniae and the ‘land of the hospitallers in the Ards’ (terram Hospitaliorum in Arte, Patent Roll §16 Edward III).  As a result Castleboy had been given the alternative name [St] Johnstown, (O’Laverty I 411; PNI ii 75-).  As time passed Sir John had been confused with his namesake St John of Jerusalem.


K. Muhr, 2009

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Ballymonestragh, Capella de

1615Terrier (Reeves) 55

Baile na Mainistreach ""town of the monastery""

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) No. 22
Ballemonstragh1615Terrier (O'Laverty) 327
Ballymonstragh1622Ulster Visit. Reeves 53
(?)Ballymonester1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxii
Ballemonestragh1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xlii
Ballymonastraughe1627CPR Chas I 228
Ballymonestragh1636Inq. Ult. (Down) $75 Car. I
Ballymonestragh al Belfort1650cInq. Ult. (Down) $109 Car. I
B:Monestrogh1659cCensus 1659 89
Ballemonestragh1661BSD 122
Ballymonistragh1662Inq. Ult. (Down) $1 Car. II
Ballymonestry1663Sub. Roll Down 285
Ballymonestragh1717Montgomery MSS 420 n 93
Ballyministra1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) No. 22
Ballyministra1830cTreas. Warrant (OSNB) No. 22
Castlereagh Lower
Parish in 1851
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